Photo Credit :By Tewy (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Trembling Aspen –(Populus tremuloides)
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Trembling Aspen is a tree that is a member of the poplar family.
Aspen is known for its ability to sprout root suckers and form clones of many individual stems. While each stem has a relatively short lifespan (50 to 150 years) the root and its clones can live for tens of thousands of years. There is a clonal colony of trembling aspen called "Pando" in Utah with a root system estimated to be 80,000 years old. "Pando" covers an area over 100 acres and has over 40,000 stems
Softwood Poplars are of immense importance to wildlife of the prairies since it occurs in stands throughout the prairies and especially in the Aspen Parkland biome. The Aspen Parkland Biome is a transition zone between the Prairie and the Boreal Forest. The climate is wetter and colder than the prairies but not as cold as the boreal forest. Most of southwestern Manitoba including Roblin lies within the Aspen Parkland. Because of its rich black fertile soils and abundant trees, ninety percent of this habitat has been converted into farmland. Between logging for fuel, building, and pulp, and clearing for agriculture, the area of aspens declined dramatically in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
In the North East First Nations people Peeled back the outer bark which revealed the inner bark and syrup was produced for food. Mohawk brewed a bark tea to expel worms and the Cree boiled its bark to make a cough syrup
Aspen is an important food and shelter plant for wildlife. It is grazed by deer, moose and elk. Many birds eat its twigs and buds. It is a favorite food of beavers, who use it for building. In winter, it is a particularly vital source of nutrients to hooved animals, but also to snowshoe hare and to grouse. Grouse rely on its winter buds. In the scarcity of winter, many animals will eat its bark. Cavities develop in these trees due to its susceptibility to fungus. This provides homes and shelter to woodpeckers, owls, squirrels and other wildlife. The leaves of the Quaking Aspen and other species in the genus Populus serve as food for caterpillars of various moths and butterflies.
Poplars have been recognized as valuable for forage for cattle and sheep and this is being studied in New Zealand. In central and eastern Europe, there is evidence that leaf fodder was used for feeding cattle and other livestock for centuries.
Aspens are incredible trees that have a cascading effect on the food web. Many insects feed on their leaves attracting insectivore birds and bats. Porcupines eat their bark and rodents and shrews enjoy the insects and understory vegetation. Next come the predators, the hawks, weasels and coyotes. This tree is an especially important source of food and shelter for wildlife during the cold of winter when other food sources are scarce. Because of the ecological importance of the aspen tree in ecosystems, US federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of and the Land Management, are interested in enhancing aspen stands.
By allowing poplars to grow, we give our cattle shade in the summer and wind and snow protection in the winter. We provide food and shelter to wildlife especially during the scarcity of winter. People that allow groves of Aspen to live are caretakers of the human race because the trees will provide provisions and beneficence for many generations to come.
Manitoba is where I was born and where I have spent most of the five and one half decades of my life. I lived on the outskirts of the town of Portage La Prairie at a time when tadpoles and frogs inhabited the ditches and ponds, when there were many Monarch butterflies each summer along with dragon flies and grasshoppers. Redwing blackbirds perched the cattails of the ditches. As children we picked dandelions for bouquets and made wishes before blowing dandelion seed heads. We searched clover for lucky four leaves and rolled on the grass…there was no concern of poisonous herbicides. The grass was thick. Wherever we dug…there were earthworms